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What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager!: A Hope and Happiness Guide for Moms with Daughters Ages 11-19

What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager!: A Hope and Happiness Guide for Moms with Daughters Ages 11-19

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What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager!: A Hope and Happiness Guide for Moms with Daughters Ages 11-19

340 pagine
7 ore
Aug 1, 2011


"If your little girl has suddenly turned into one big eye roll, then Arden Greenspan-Goldberg's What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! is for you. It's the ultimate how-to guidebook that will not only teach you how to survive your daughter's teen years, but how to enjoy them along the way, too."—Jen Singer, author of You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either)

In a straightforward, user friendly, and totally accessible way, What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! overflows with the skills and techniques every mother needs for navigating the precarious yet thrilling road of raising a teenage daughter. Arden Greenspan-Goldberg covers every facet of your ride of a lifetime: sex, drugs, bullying, friends, and more... expertly steering you into realistic expectations that both prepare and equip you for your journey."—Dr. Jane Greer, marriage and family therapist, author, What About Me?: Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, radio host, Huffington Post contributor

"Thank goodness, a liberating, refreshingly helpful and therapeutically credible road map along the free-falling journey of motherhood. We all win with less 'losing it' around conflict. The personal stories definitely made me feel less alone and empowered to stay open!"—Emme, TV personality, supermodel, women's body image advocate, and mom
Bullying. Body Image. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Stress.

You know your daughter has a lot to deal with. But short of being with her 24/7, how can you help?

The ultimate preparation manual and survival guide for moms with tween or teen girls, What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! is a portable problem-solver, a manual for surviving and thriving with your daughter. Written by Arden Greenspan-Goldberg, a nationally known family and marriage psychotherapist specializing in teen and young adult issues, this book offers you a way to step back from the chaos, manage your worries, and cultivate a more open and less volatile relationship with your daughter.

Filled with advice on how to handle the most serious topics, from bullying, sex, and drugs to eating disorders and friends, as well as other typical hot-button scenarios—including the desire for piercings or tattoos, posting racy photos online, sexting, and many more issues—this is a must-have for any mom coping with a teenage daughter.

Aug 1, 2011

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What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! - Arden Greenspan-Goldberg



Introduction to Aerial Parenting

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

—Emily Dickinson

You thought your husband or partner could push your buttons, but that was before you had her. Daughters, particularly teenage daughters, are gifted in the art of the comeback, the shoulder shrug, the eye roll. And what’s really amazing is the way it affects you. Think about how your face gets so hot after your daughter says You ruin everything! or You don’t know what you’re talking about!

Perhaps your daughter reminds you of yourself when you were her age and all the growing pains you experienced. Maybe you see yourself in her, your good points as well as your notso-good ones. Or maybe you feel you don’t have anything in common with your daughter and can’t relate to her. No wonder the relationships between mothers and daughters can be so emotionally charged. Being the mother of a teenage daughter can be downright alarming. Consider these bald facts:

More than 30 percent of girls—that’s nearly one in three—becomes pregnant at least once before the age of twenty.

In the United States, one in every ten births involves a teen mother.

Seventy percent of teen girls who are sexually active say they wish they had waited.

Nearly 63 percent of teens try alcohol before their eighteenth birthdays; 41 percent before they even reach the eighth grade (that’s just thirteen years old).

Sixty-two percent of U.S. high school students attend a school where drugs are used, kept, or sold.

Eighty percent of fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds have been exposed to hardcore porn on the Internet multiple times; in fact, the average age a child is first exposed to Internet pornography is just eleven years old.

It’s a minefield out there, and if you’re a mother of a tween or teen daughter, it’s enough to make you want to scream and hide. Well, screaming might help to release some of the tension, but you can’t really hide. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’re still a mom, and a mom to a daughter between the ages of eleven and nineteen at that. Much of the time it’s all we can do to simply react to what’s going on and try to keep up with everything that’s happening around us. So what’s a stressed-out, overworked, underappreciated, woefully-unprepared-forall-this mom supposed to do?

As a nationally known family and marriage psychotherapist specializing in teen and young adult issues, I have helped countless moms step back from the chaos, manage their worries, and cultivate more open and less volatile relationships with their daughters. This book is that help wrapped into a portable package just for you.


This book is the ultimate preparation manual and survival guide for mothers with tween or teen girls ages eleven to nineteen. It’s a tool of prevention. We’ll discuss all manner of scenarios on the most hot-button topics, from bullying to sex to drugs to eating disorders to stress and depression. We’ll also cover everyday confrontations, from her wanting to get piercings where the sun doesn’t shine, to her posting racy pictures online, to you trying to get her to talk to you about what’s going on in her life and listen to what you have to say in return.

You’ll read through real questions that moms typically wonder about, followed by ideas on how to handle the situation calmly and effectively, as well as the relevant info moms need to make good parenting decisions. The questions are based on dilemmas I’ve encountered as a therapist in my practice, and from questions and emails I get through my website, In addition, you’ll read some exclusive interviews I’ve conducted especially for this book with noted experts in their respective fields. These incredible women, many of them mothers themselves, all offer their expertise and insights to Mom to further her understanding and strengthen her connection to her daughter. I also share memories and lessons learned from parenting and guiding my own daughter, Samara, although there were definitely days when it seemed Samara was teaching me how to be a better parent. I share the collective wisdom of all of these experiences, thorns and all.

Why are we covering so many situations? The idea is that the more scenarios you’ve thought through, the better able you’ll be to handle things as they arise.

Because we obviously can’t anticipate everything that might happen in your daughter’s life, the book will also include general strategies for being a responsive parent, which can help moms with things like how to keep from taking your daughter’s outbursts too personally, how to talk to her without escalating the argument, how to stay focused on what’s important, and how to be a positive and effective influence on her life. The book includes lots of clearly marked boxes and sections highlighting important facts and advice to make it easy for moms to navigate. That means you can dip into this book wherever and whenever you want to in order to find help dealing with the issue of the moment. But I also hope that you will read this book as a guidebook, a manual for surviving and thriving during the oft-dreaded teenage years, before you end up facing their fears and frustrations in real life.

The book is divided into fifteen chapters. This chapter will introduce you to the parenting philosophy that I call aerial parenting and give you some guidelines for your overall relationship with your daughter. Chapter 2 explores the main issue, which is that tween and teen girls tend to be volatile creatures in their own right. On top of that, the mother-daughter relationship can be full of change and emotion. But a volatile parent is not a good parent, so how does Mom handle all this and turn turbulent situations into positive outcomes? It’s not easy, but this first section will set moms on the right track by arming them with the proper perspective and general parenting strategies. I’ll explain where girls are developmentally as they age from tweens to teens, so that moms can have a better idea of what to expect from them. I’ll also help moms access their own parenting styles so they can better understand the part they play in creating the dynamic between themselves and their daughters.

The rest of the chapters deal with the most common and feared issues mothers of teen daughters face, from sex and drugs to family fallouts and getting into college. The purpose of my advice is to bring Mom closer to her daughter, to make their relationship more open, more trusting, and even more fun. There will be plenty of sidebars and statistics throughout the chapters to emphasize both the practical and inspirational aspects of this book, along with scripts and conversation starters in case you’re not sure what to say. (You’ll find conversation starters and scripts bolded throughout.)

The last chapter of this book will let moms know when to seek out additional help, information, or support they might need, how to find that help, and the right questions to ask. The book ends with a resource section for moms looking for more information and direction.

This book aims to help you learn how to be even more responsive, compassionate, educated, aware, and savvier moms than you already are. I believe as parents we are on a learning curve. Home is not built in a day, and raising daughters is a day-by-day process. For my daughter, Samara, and for your daughters, there are some complicated emotional and physical developmental building blocks that need to be put in place.

As a parent and therapist I have put in great effort to see the bigger picture, what I call the aerial view. Some of my training as a therapist has helped me to be more objective, to take steps back, to be more curious about where a person is coming from personally and within the framework of her family and culture. I’ve learned how to listen and not take things so personally. This approach has helped me immensely in finding solutions and inspired my clients to find their own solutions with guidance from me.

I call this approach aerial parenting.


Aerial parenting is all about seeing the bigger picture and getting some much needed perspective, specifically when it comes to parenting your daughter. Aerial parenting involves developing the capacity to gain some objectivity, to learn how to respond rather than react, and to immerse yourself in the present while taking into account your and your daughter’s pasts and projected futures. It’s seeing yourself and your daughter in a timeline and developing a deep appreciation, gratitude, and joy for her existence and for how much she has enhanced and challenged your life. I have developed a capacity to parent aerially through my work as a psychotherapist, and I practiced this philosophy at home with my two children, Samara and her older brother Todd, with great success.

Let me show you a bit about how this philosophy works using two mini-visualizations. Imagine, for just a moment, that you’re a bird flying high in the sky. (I love the image of eagles soaring and gliding through the air because they are able to reach altitudes as high as a jet.) You look down, and laid out on the ground below you is your daughter’s life. The details are a bit sketchy from that height, but you can basically see who she is, what obstacles are in her way, and in which direction she might travel. What’s more, from that vantage point, the chaos doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming. You look around you and realize that this experience can be almost peaceful, even fun sometimes. That’s the feeling we’re aiming for when we engage as aerial parents.

Or pretend that you are sitting in the audience of a grand theatre, high above the stage in the balcony. From your perch, you can look down on the stage. Playing out before you is the unfolding drama of your and your daughter’s life stories, your relationship, and whatever you’re struggling to face at the moment.

With the aerial approach, whether you are high in the sky or in the balcony of the theatre of your life, you are watching, anticipating, and preparing. Remember, you are moving in the direction of objectivity, guiding and helping your daughter think through her problems. To me, viewing life from the biggest picture will usually serve both your and your daughter’s best interests and deepen and strengthen your connection to each other.

Here’s a look at several of the guidelines that make up the aerial parenting philosophy, things that it might be helpful to keep in mind overall with any scenario you encounter.

Anticipate and Prepare

One of the things I like to tell moms who are in a high state of anxiety over what might happen to their daughter is that prevention is all about anticipation and preparation. If you prepare in advance, when things come up—and they will come up; there’s no use burying your head in the sand and pretending they won’t—you will be able to respond from your heart. It will allow you to be a responsive parent rather than a reactive one.

What’s the difference? Suppose your daughter came to you today and said, matter-of-factly, Mom, I want to start taking birth control. Can you take me to the gynecologist? If you’ve prepared for this moment, for this very question even, you can respond with concern and advice, have an open conversation with her, and perhaps even influence her decision. If you aren’t prepared for this moment, well, then you’re likely to freak the heck out.

Educate and Inform

As mothers, we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in our children’s lives and the world at large. We need to be on the lookout and stay informed about current developments in teen culture. If pharm parties are all the rage (see Chapter 12), then we need to check our medicine cabinets and count all the prescription pills. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend our kids are never going to experiment with drugs, alcohol, or sex. Educating ourselves is a big part of being proactive and protective, as kids can be very savvy these days.

No Punishment

Part of my parenting philosophy is an emphasis on no punishment when it comes to tweens and teens. This is not because I’m a lightweight pushover. It’s for a much more practical reason that comes from years of experience as both a therapist and a mother: punishment simply doesn’t work with teens the way you want it to.

Let’s say your daughter is at a party and realizes she’s about to miss her curfew. As she’s standing on the sidewalk wondering what to do, that new kid who’s had a little too much to drink offers her a ride home. He’s a little unsteady but says he can drive just fine. Will she get into the car, or will she call you for a ride? Well, if she’s afraid you’re going to yell at her and punish her for missing her curfew, she might be tempted to get into Mr. Tipsy’s car and put her life at risk. Check out this alarming statistic: in all drunk driving fatalities, 45% of the passengers are under the age of 21 while a drunk driver is in control of the wheel. Or if he’s not as nice as he seems, she could become one of the 44 percent of rape victims who are under the age of eighteen.

But if she remembers you telling her that her safety and well-being come first, then she won’t get in the car with a drunk stranger, no matter how cute he is. She won’t become a statistic because she’ll know that she can call you at any time and count on the fact that your love and concern for her trumps any anger or annoyance you might feel.

Expect Her to Make Mistakes

Although you warned your thirteen-year-old not to go on the My Life Is Average website, don’t be surprised when your nine-year-old daughter snitches on her older sister: She’s back on there again saying she’s seventeen—and chatting with some stranger who says he’s seventeen! You might feel very mad, Mom, but before you walk down to the basement where your older daughter is using the family computer, say to yourself, Collect yourself, take a breath. I knew it would take more than once to make an impression on her that it’s dangerous to pretend she is seventeen. She really has no idea who she is chatting with on the other end. I need to understand better what compels and lures her to go on that site and behind my back again. I thought she felt comfortable enough to talk with me and have a discussion.

If you expect her to make mistakes from the get-go, and prepare yourself for the fact that your teenager will mess up, then you’ll be better able to help her and guide her when it really counts. This will be an ongoing dialogue between Mom and daughter that transcends the Internet and moves into real life. For instance, you could ask her: Would you just randomly walk up and talk to a seventeen-year-old? See what she has to say. She may say, No way! Okay, then, why would you do that on this site? You need to make her part of the solution, and walk her and steer her to think through what she is doing.

Make Your Daughter Part of the Solution

Making your daughter part of the solution means asking her to help create the guidelines and routines that will affect her life, whether it’s coming up with a new curfew or deciding which chore she will handle on a weekly basis. Your daughter is much more likely to abide by these parameters when she has had a hand in making them. Ask her what she thinks would be fair in a situation, and then tell her what you had in mind and be open to negotiation. Let’s say you want her home by nine thirty on a school night and she’s pushing for ten thirty. Try ten o’clock and see how it goes. You want to show her that you can be flexible and receptive and she can be capable and smart.

She’ll be more receptive to any limits and boundaries if she is able to negotiate a more favorable outcome. Negotiating is an important and useful life skill that will come in handy with friends, roommates, teachers, classmates, colleagues, bosses, and romantic partners. And if she breaks curfew, then you can remind her, But sweetie, you agreed to this, which will help keep the conversation focused on her and her behavior.

Set Up Reasonable Parameters and Guidelines

I prefer to set limits and boundaries and parameters that speak to the possibilities in life. Rules, punishments, and prescribed formulas are way too restrictive and negative in their focus to work effectively for me. I have done my best to eliminate any hard and fast rules from my parenting and practice. The guidelines you set should come from a place of love, not fear or control, and be fluid enough to respond to most situations you and your daughter may encounter.

Talk in Unconventional Places and Spaces

It can happen in the car while you’re driving (and not looking directly at each other), while you’re making dinner, or while you’re walking together at the mall. Suddenly she blurts out something that’s been bothering her, maybe that her pal is going through a really bad breakup with her boyfriend and acting crazy jealous. And you are presented with a casual opportunity to discuss a more controversial or serious topic. You have the chance to filter through some of what she’s seeing and hearing. By giving her your perspective and your take on these situations, you can help to reframe her perception of it. You can ask her, How could she have handled it differently? and share experiences from your own adolescence. Just think, if you were sitting across the table from each other at dinner, face-to-face, this conversation might not have happened at all.

Pick the Right Time to Talk

Your daughter will be much more receptive to what you’re saying if she’s not tired, sleepy, hungover, upset, frustrated, or mad. If you ask about her homework and rattle off a list of to-dos as soon as she comes through the door, she will likely feel irritated. Translation: enough already, leave me alone, can’t I have a minute or sixty to text, Facebook, and IM all of my friends? Avoid the times she’ll feel hassled and rushed. And obviously it’s not good to have a serious talk with your daughter in front of her friends, her coworkers, or her teachers. If you’re not sure, ask her, Is this a good time to talk? If your daughter is coming home stoned and drunk at four in the morning making lots of noise, it’s not a good time for a talk when your blood is boiling. Table the discussion and wait till tomorrow.

Table It and Try Again Later

Take a few deep breaths before speaking, or wait a few hours (or a few days) until you’re able to talk to her calmly. If your daughter is not in immediate danger, you can give yourself enough time to pull yourself together so you can organize your thoughts. You’ll be much more likely to get through to her if you can speak with composure, logic, and a clear sense of what you want her to understand. You simply can’t do that if you’re feeling frazzled or provoked. Here’s the question you need to ask yourself, Mom: how often are you really facing an emergency situation that must be dealt with this very minute? Generally, not that often.

Pay Attention to Her Nonverbal Cues

When she starts rolling her eyes, turning her back, or walking away, respect her limits and let her process what has just been said. Don’t push your agenda on a hostile or resistant teen who is unwilling or unable to absorb any more. On the other hand, if she leans in closer to talk or seems like she wants to ask you a question, you can draw her out and continue the conversation. She will signal you when she is ready to receive the information and when she is not, without having to say a word.

Be Aware of Your Own Signals

Check for any negative attitudes, eye-rolling, sarcasm, angry gestures, and bristling impatience on your part. She can sense when you’re tense or angry with her and read your nonverbal cues and reactions. Pay attention to your tone of voice, your facial expressions, and your body language. How are you coming across in the moment? Negative or angry signals will only derail and undermine whatever message you are trying to get across.

Be the Role Model

As moms, we need to be clear about our purpose and consistent in our comportment. If you ask your daughter not to text while driving, then you need to stop texting when you’re driving. The same goes for smoking and drinking. You need to be the prototype of self-respect, a moral and ethical compass for your daughter. Walking your talk is essential. Demonstrate the behaviors and attitudes you wish to see in her. Your daughter is learning from you. She watches you like a hawk and copies you and picks up your blind spots along with your gifts.

Lend Your Brain

There also will be times when she will be lacking in judgment. That’s when you lend her your brain. Because the teenage brain is not fully developed yet, your daughter will need to borrow yours from time to time. As an adult, you have the ability to think through problems and come up with potential solutions. You have a marvelous capacity to peer into the future and see what’s waiting around the bend. Let your daughter know that you and your brain are there to help her sort things out, no matter what the subject. (Even My boyfriend and I are thinking of having sex. Gulp.) When things come up, you can walk her through your logic and thought process and talk to her about any relevant experiences you may have had. In doing this, you’re demonstrating to her how to be creative and resourceful. This is coming from a place of love, calm, and respect for our daughters. We educate and inform our daughters that their brain, specifically their prefrontal cortex, is not fully developed until their early twenties. This is not a put-down; if anything it’s all about age-appropriate expectations, what they are really capable of processing and figuring out on their own.

Trust Your Gut (TUG)

Too often we have this gut instinct or inner sense that something is wrong. Some folks call it instinct; others call it intuition or a sixth sense. It’s a small, extremely intelligent voice within us that’s full of wisdom. We need to pay the closest attention to this kind of inner stirrings. I often hear moms say things like Why didn’t I trust myself? Turns out I knew better. Red flags go up if there is danger or apprehension. At other times, we can sense what the best course of action for our daughters is and summon up a wise strategy. For me, it’s like a safety valve, something that has not ever let me down. When I have not listened to my small inner voice, that’s when I have gone off course and lost my way. So our work as parents is in developing, building, and strengthening our TUG—and teaching our daughters to listen and trust their guts too.

Let me give you an example of how one resourceful mom trusted her gut. Andrea has two teenage daughters. When she was laying down the law one day, they looked at her and simply said, Mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re crazy. We both know it, and all our friends know it too. Every one of our friends who has met you says you’re crazy. As a single mom with no one to back her up, that really hit her where it hurt and even caused her to question herself.

Thankfully, rather than just let it go, Andrea decided to investigate the situation further. She sensed something was fishy. It just didn’t sound like something her daughters would say. Acting on instinct, she called up the mothers of some of her daughters’ friends to get their perspective and discovered something amazing: their daughters had been saying the exact same thing to them. Apparently the tactic of undermining Mom by calling her crazy had worked for one teen and word had spread. This group of moms decided they would launch a coordinated response by confronting their daughters that same evening. Andrea’s girls nearly melted in shame when she told them what she had learned and how disappointed she was in their behavior. Our daughters can be masters of manipulation when they want something, but how this mom handled the situation is a lesson in how to be both composed and clever.

Create Age-Appropriate Expectations

Be realistic when it comes to your teen. Don’t impose limits and restrictions she can’t handle or expect her to be an adult. When I refer to age-appropriate expectations, it’s trying to keep within the frame of what your child is both emotionally and intellectually able to understand. When we talk to our tweens and teens like we would talk to our peers or our girlfriends, we are expecting too much. When we expect our teenagers to be compassionate to our exhaustion after we have spouted out a litany of complaints about everything that she is doing wrong, we are expecting too much. Let’s take a simple example: if she has always been messy, don’t demand that she start keeping her room as neat as a pin during finals week.

Let Her Talk

Give her enough time to finish her sentences, her ideas, and her thoughts. Don’t interrupt her. Respect her pauses in the conversation as she is gathering her words. Do not rush in with solutions or answers. It’s best not to comment until she gives you the green light that it’s okay to do so. Practice active listening. Give her your full attention. This can be the hardest strategy for moms because it requires us to stop talking and doing for a moment and get out of our daughter’s way. You are giving her the chance to share, vent, and

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